NFL Draft Prospects Cowboys Must Target After 2023 Shrine, Senior Bowls - Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report
How do the Cowboys biggest positions of need line up with the strengths of this draft class?
Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
The Cowboys have a tough decision to make at running back. They could lose Tony Pollard in free agency, and they might have to cut Ezekiel Elliott to keep the 25-year-old.
Releasing Elliott with a post-June 1 designation would save $10.9 million in cap space.
Either way, Dallas should be in the market for a dual-threat running back, and Tulane’s Tyjae Spears could fill its needs.
The 21-year-old racked up 1,581 rushing yards, 256 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns this past season, and he continued to shine during Senior Bowl week.
“Spears was the best running back in Mobile, whether he was toting the rock or catching it,” NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah wrote. “He popped a long run during Wednesday’s practice and when he’s matched up against a safety one on one, the defender can’t even get a finger on him.”
Spears only had one two-yard carry in the game itself but did catch three passes for 15 yards. His collegiate production speaks volumes, though, and he would be a tremendous addition to the Dallas backfield in 2023.
The Cowboys have done well finding tight ends in the later round, and may want to add another to go with Peyton Hendershot and Jake Ferguson if Dalton Schultz doesn’t re-sign.
LUKE MUSGRAVE — TE, OREGON STATE
Jake Ferguson was impressive in last year’s Senior Bowl and the Cowboys ultimately selected him in the fourth round.
A tall, lean, rangy tight end, he measured 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds. A matchup nightmare for defenses.
He has also shown good blocking abilities and may be the best edge set run-blocking tight end in the class.
The Cowboys hope to improve on Kellen Moore’s offense with Mike McCarthy and Brian Schottenheimer taking charge.
Is Schottenheimer a run-heavy coach?
This could be the biggest misconception out there right now.
It doesn’t help his father, Marty Schottenheimer, was infamously known for “Marty Ball” which uses opportunistic passing to support a stubborn and unrelenting running game. It also doesn’t help his numbers show he’s led some fairly run-heavy attacks over the course of his career.
Yet a deeper dive shows there’s more than meets the eye and calling him a run-heavy coach might be inaccurate once the circumstances of the individual situations are considered.
Seattle offers the best glimpse of this.
The previously mentioned “Philosophical differences” between Carroll and Schottenheimer specifically involved the run-pass balance. But it was Schottenheimer who wanted to pass the ball more and Carroll who wanted to maintain the run-heavy identity, according to QB Russell Wilson.
Carroll, one of the most run-focused coaches in today’s NFL, saw his team’s passing frequency steadily rise under Schottenheimer. His last year calling plays for the Seahawks produced Wilson’s best season of his career (also the most pass attempts of Wilson’s career).
Statistics that bode well for the Cowboys after hiring Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator - DefytalksCowboys, Blogging the Boys
Schottenheimer will have a much more public role with the Cowboys after being on McCarthy’s staff last season.
This is where the Seattle Seahawks offense ranked in yards and points per game each season of Schottenheimer’s tenure (per ESPN).
Yards - 18th
Points - 8th
Yards - 8th
Points - 9th
Yards - 17th
Points - 8th
The Seahawks were one of the more efficient teams when passing the football in the red zone. In 2018 Russell Wilson threw the fourth most touchdowns in the red zone (23), went on to lead the league in 2019 (25), and was second in 2020 (29). It’s noteworthy that Schottenheimer will now have a quarterback that’s much more consistent at reading the middle of the field when compared to Russell Wilson.
Overall, the Cowboys hiring Brian Schottenheimer wasn’t some amazing home run hire, but it brings a fresh mind to an offense that’s lacked consistency.
Both players have been mainstays on offense, but the Cowboys have tough cap decisions to make with Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith.
Might the era - not only for Ezekiel Elliott but also for Tyron Smith - be over?
That’s the concept proposed by The Dallas Morning News, a scenario in which the Cowboys cut both running back Elliott and offensive tackle Smith during this upcoming offseason.
There is money involved, for certain.
Is there also a decline in performance involved?
Elliott’s coming cap hit is $16.7 million; it has already been established that Dallas is planning on moving on from that contract, if not that player. The Cowboys are prepared to take the $11 million dead-money punishment that comes with a move - again, whether he’s on the team or not.
A driving force: Even though COO Stephen Jones recently claimed that he sees no decline in Zeke’s game, the Cowboys know the truth. And they also know what happens to heavy-lifting running backs as they approach their late 20’s.
Zeke as the featured back in 2023 is absolutely not the plan.
But why does Tyron get lumped into this?
He’s actually in a different situation in both the categories of finance and performance.
Smith is due to have a cap hit of $17.6 million, but with a reported $9 million in cap savings if he’s released. He’s 32 and has his injury issues, but still plays at a high level.
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